Part One: Love and the Human Psyche (By the Scientist in Me)
Part Two: Loving Loved Ones Who Are Hard to Love (By the Minister of Christ in Me)
Love & the Human Psyche
Neuro-Psychiatrists tell us the human brain is hardwired in a way that we crave intimate relationships—that we long for love. Yet often those relationships end so horribly in heartache. A bad relationship leaves our fragile psyches bruised, or even completely shattered. Once bitten by love, some fear a repeat of that emotional trauma so much that they close themselves off and never again open themselves up to love.
A young man attending college sees a beautiful woman in class, and immediately he is attracted to her. Several weeks pass, and he’s made a few heart-felt, yet feeble attempts to speak with her, but every time he sees her the attraction is intensified. Something has been happening within the neural network of his brain.
Love has a way of rewiring our neural network. We meet someone, and similar to a virus, they occupy and alter our synapses. This causes our brain to release chemicals that produce arousal, attraction, or obsession. That special person becomes an ever present distraction; we can’t seem to focus upon anything but them. But we are not simply thinking about them all the time. Our brain is building a model of that person—a simulation of who and what we believe them to be. Our mind is actually predicting what they think, or rather what we want them to think, and even how they feel. So let’s say we’ve begun a relation with them. It may go well for some time.
Then suddenly our illusion of that person meets who they really are. Our simulation of them and reality finally collide like two trains heading in opposing directions. That person had no chance whatsoever of living up to our expectations of them, because we had a false view of who they were. Our mind was in love with the depiction our brain created of who that person was, rather than the actual person. This brings up the all important question: Did we ever really love their true person, or were we simply in love with our perception of who they were?
Loving Loved Ones Who Are Hard To love
(Previously published in “Christian Focus Magazine” June-July issue 2013 pg.42)
As Phillip sat across from me with his elbows on my desk, his face in his hands, the quaking voice he emitted dripped with disappointment and sorrow. He was adamant that his wife Maria had changed completely after they were married, saying that she was not at all what he had expected her to be. When I also spoke with Maria, she said almost exactly the same thing about Phillip. Then, counseling both together, we discovered that they each had held very unrealistic expectations of the other, as well as a false view of each other from the beginning.
If we do not love God first, and understand our desperate need for the grace He gives, then the people we love will never meet our expectations of them. We will expect conformity to an illusion of what the perfect candidate for that particular role or relationship looks like.
When we come to Christ and see ourselves with clarity in the light of His holiness, how utterly detestable our own sinfulness becomes to us! It is only when we see ourselves for who and what we truly are that we can know what unconditional love is, for God has sent His own Son to die for us while we were yet sinners, while we are still in that wretched condition. The question is then begged: Do I really love this person who is so far from my illusion of what they should be? Our answer lies in the question: Has God demanded that we conform to a pattern of perfection before He loves us, or after His act of grace and mercy, after He has proven His love? He loved us first, and then acted upon that love with grace.
Speaking of our old sinful nature, Paul writes in Gal.2:20 “I am crucified with Christ”. In dying to the old self, we crucify our illusion of who and what we ourselves are, and of what that loved one should be. The weakness of the flesh perpetrates and perpetuates these illusions in our mind. The Spirit of Truth, or Holy Spirit, reveals truth. Jesus Christ is the truth, (John 14:6), and ALL truth can be found through a relationship with Him.
Expect your expectations to change!
With our illusions shattered by the illuminating reality found in Christ, we can decide to love unconditionally. We must begin granting grace and mercy to our loved one. Suddenly, our expectations are pure. They have not been lowered, but are now reasonable, having grown out of an accurate knowledge of who we really are, and hence who they truly are. We are now empowered to lead them to the same truth in Jesus to make the changes they need to make. We certainly cannot judge them (we are or were in the same condition) and we can now truly love them, for our disillusionment—the breaking of our illusion, has given us the ability, the power to love them into change.
There are 3 steps toward our loved one becoming what we need in that relationship.
Know the truth found only in a relationship with Christ Jesus.
Love unconditionally as we have been loved by God.
And grant them the same kind of grace we have been given.
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Romans 16:20
Phillip and Maria just had their second child. After fifteen years of happy marriage, they say their love for each other has now grown to a beautiful maturity, and life together is wonderful, thanks to Jesus Christ.